The Chicago Explorer Pass is a flexible attraction pass that allows you to visit 3, 4, or 5 attractions from nearly 30 different options. You can save up to 40% on combined admission prices, and pay nothing at the gate. You’ll be able to see the best the city has to offer, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, 360 CHICAGO, Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off tour, an Architecture River Cruise, and much more.
How the Explorer Pass Works
The Chicago Explorer Pass is an all-digital pass that grants you admission to your choice of about 29 top Chicago attractions. You don’t need to choose in advance. Just present your pass at your chosen attraction, and you’re set for entry. You can even skip the ticket line at select attractions.
The pass is digital, which means it can be used on your smartphone (with the free Go City Card app). It can also be printed out if that works better for your travel style. You have 30 days from the first use to visit the other attractions, so it’s excellent for locals or those in town for a long vacation.
The Top Chicago Attractions
There are dozens of attractions included in this program, but here’s a selection of the most popular to give you an idea of what’s available.
- Cultural Institutions (Field Museum, Art Institute of Chicago)
- Kid-Friendly Attractions (Chicago Children’s Museum, Navy Pier, LEGOLAND Discovery Center)
- Science Museums (Adler Planetarium, Museum of Science and Industry)
- Architecture-themed Attractions (Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Tour, Robie House)
- Cruises (Tall Ship Windy, Classic Lake Tour)
- Bus Tours (Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off, Grand Tour, Night Tour)
Other attractions include things like additional tours, zoos, bike rentals, and adult-friendly activities like an Escape Room.
How You Save with an Explorer Pass
The Chicago Explorer Pass is pretty straightforward. You pay for the number of attractions you want to see and that amount is lower than the amount you would have paid to those attractions. They advertise a savings of 40% with their product, which seems about right.
You need to choose the more expensive attractions to visit with the product to make sure that what you pay doesn’t end up becoming more or equal to what you’d pay at the attractions. So, for example, you won’t want to pick the Lincoln Park Zoo Rides as one of your attraction options (it’s only $3) or the American Writer’s Museum ($12). Pick the big-ticket items like the Grand Tour (about $50) and the Art Institute of Chicago ($35).
It almost goes without saying, but you also need to visit the number of attractions you paid for. If you choose the 5-attraction pass but only see 4 things, you don’t get your money’s worth with the product.
The Chicago Explorer Pass, like the Go Chicago Card, also includes valuable extra discounts on dining and shopping which can make a big difference when budgeting. Save on Blue Man Group tickets, shopping at Macy’s, and more. Take advantage of these discounts when traveling to maximize the value of the pass,
How Do I Know the Pass is Right for Me?
The Chicago Explorer Pass is a good choice for those who want a more leisurely vacation style. With an even longer time frame to use the pass than the 9 days offered by Chicago CityPASS, the Chicago Explorer Pass gives you a whole month to explore. While you may not need it if you’re just a visitor, it’s very helpful for those who may live in Chicagoland, or the Midwest more broadly.
It’s also a good choice if you only want to see a few things. You don’t need to rush around to cram everything in, and can see just the top 3, 4, or 5 attractions you’re interested in. They offer almost all the same things at the Go Chicago Card, too. This can be especially helpful if your other Chicago plans involve theater tickets, shopping, and extensive culinary explorations.
Any Reason Not to Buy a Chicago Explorer Pass
The Chicago Explorer Pass is great if you don’t want to see a lot, but not helpful if you do. If you are interested in bustling around the city to enjoy 2 to 3 attractions per day, then the Go Chicago Card might be a better choice.
Otherwise, it’s pretty comparable to the Chicago CityPASS in price and in the travel style it encourages (with the exception that the Chicago Explorer Pass also offers products in increments of 3 and 4 attractions). If you like that product, this one might be a good option, too.
Chicago Explorer Pass Sample Itineraries
There are plenty of different itineraries you could craft with a Chicago Explorer Pass, but here are a couple of examples to get you thinking.
A Weekend Getaway (4-Attraction Pass)
Day 1: Art Institute; Field Museum
Day 2: Chicago Architecture Cruise; Bike n’ Roll Bike Rental
A Trip with Kids (5-Attraction Pass)
Day 1: Chicago Children’s Museum; Navy Pier Rides
Day 2: Shedd Aquarium
Day 3: Field Museum
Day 4: Museum of Science and Industry
Chicago Explorer Pass Pricing
The passes start at about $80 for three attractions for an adult traveler and $50 for a child visiting the same number of attractions. The highest value is going to be the five-attraction pass, at around $120 per adult and $80 per child.
This puts the five-attraction pass at a very comparable price point with the Chicago CityPASS (although the Explorer Pass is a teeny bit more expensive). Since they are similar products, it’s probably up to personal preference which one you want to buy if you know you want to see five things.
Go City Card often puts their passes on sale; usually around the holidays. Keep an eye on their site, and sign up for their e-mails for a discount coupon. With instant digital delivery, you can even wait until the last minute to purchase the product when it goes on sale.